Animal Studies Bibliography

Baenninger, Ronald. 1988. Animals in art: Some trends across three millennia. Journal of Psychology 122(2): 183-191.

Animals have played a central role in our lives throughout the course of human civilization as hunters of us, hunted by us, assistants in hunting other animals, beasts of burden that helped with human settlement, development, and cultivation, competitors, companions, entertainers, and powerful religious and artistic symbols. With modernization and the decline of religion and our increasing separation from any animals but pets, animals have become less important in our lives and as such should be less important as symbols in various kinds of high and popular art forms.

Hypotheses : Portrayal of animals in art will decline over time as animals become less important in human society.

Independent variables/operational definitions : dependence of human society on animals (not measured; declines over time)

Dependent variables/operational definitions : appearance of animals in important Western paintings, murals, and frescoes--all live animals belonging to a recognizable species (i.e. not dragons, etc.) were coded as central or peripheral to the meaning of the painting, and the presence of humans was coded; appearance of animals on coins of the same periods covered by the paintings--all recognizable animals and animal parts, humans, humans w/ animals, plants, and inanimate objects were coded

Findings : The depiction of animals decreased steadily from the time of ancient Egypt and Persia to the 20th century, and as the percentage of animals decreased, the percentage of humans depicted increased (therefore the change did not involve a decrease in depiction of all living things, but rather was specific to animals). Animals as central to the painting also decreased sharply and remained low for some time. In the 20th century, however, there has been an increase in animals depicted as central characters. This may be connected to the peripheral use of animals, which stayed fairly constant until the Romantic era, when it declined sharply. In the 20th century, animals either do not appear in a painting at all, or they are the central figure. The art in the textbooks showed the same pattern. Popular art on greeting cards, home decorations, and the like is much more likely to show animals, as people still do enjoy them. It is difficult, however, to measure how popular art has changed over time, because it is much less likely to be preserved. Coins are handled by elites and common people alike and may provide a glimpse of animals in popular art forms. People were consistently shown on coins, though there were some odd fluctuations over time. Animals appeared fairly regularity before 300 A.D., often with humans, but basically disappeared after the fall of Rome. In the early Middle Ages, coins generally showed plants or inanimate objects. From 1000 A.D. forward there has been a steady increase in animals on coins. This finding suggests that animals are, in fact, still an important cultural theme in the West, despite their decline in paintings.

Sample/population sampled : 1674 paintings, murals, and frescoes from 17 major Western galleries, chosen because they were considered important enough to appear in the museums' guidebooks. A second survey of popular art history textbooks served to correct the bias towards Renaissance art found in the museum guides. 1798 coin sides from texts on the history of coins.



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